Organic Container Gardening: First season Failure and Success

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So I have been gardening for about a year and a half.  It all started in 2016: We were still living in Rietondale, Pretoria, in a lovely old house with parquet floors and enormous rooms with high ceilings, and… a non-existent garden. We were renting the house, and when one rents, one does not want to spend too much money on the garden.

We did try a small vegetable patch when we just moved in, but the ground was so poor and the tomatoes that grew were awful and couldn’t be eaten. I didn’t have any knowledge of anything ‘garden’ at all then. My husband is a keen gardener and has green fingers, but he was really busy at the time, so he wasn’t really able to spend much time in the garden either.

Then, one hot summer day, I was looking at the small ‘courtyard’ garden through the burglar barred window of our room, and thought, no more. I shall plant, and  I shall plant now.  The only thing growing in the garden at the time was lavender. We decided to plant lavender everywhere as it was the only thing loving the sandy soil (that was not retaining any moisture whatsoever), that didn’t need a lot of watering.

So, on this specific day, I was looking at one of the lavender bushes in one of the beds that had died. I grabbed a spade and fork and dug it out. Lots of sweat and blistered hands followed but I was determined. One does not simply dig out a lavender bush that has been established for some years.

The following day I took photos of my garden beds (which were now empty) and drove to a nearby nursery, which specialises in exotic plants. The lady was eager to help me plan my garden, but the moment she saw what my ground looked like, she sent me away with four bags of chicken manure. She refused to sell me any plants, as she said they would only die due to my poor ground condition. And so started my relationship with ground. I followed her instructions and had to wait three weeks for the manure to do it’s job. But it was so worth it. I planted clivias, yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, a geranium and a hydrangea. I then pulled out Jane’s Delicious Garden, which I had received as a gift but up until then it had only served as a pretty coffee table book. From the the first chapter, I was hooked. I started reading the book from beginning to end, underlining and researching. Continue reading

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Rye and Date (zero sugar) Rusks

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I love food. I love cooking. I love baking. Most of all, I love eating, and I think my favourite thing in the world is a rusk. A rusk is a very South African thing. A dry, ugly, high fibre, fattening carb, that I simply will never be able to live without. A rusk is dipped in your (usually morning) coffee or tea, and soaked for a few seconds until just soft enough to bite off easily, but not mushy.

I start panicking when I see that my rusks are running low.

When we decided to stop eating sugar, I was a little devastated. Not because of the chocolate, ice cream or milkshakes that I would be going without, but because of my rusks. My morning companion, helping me enter the day with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I literally wake up thinking about rusks (sometimes).  But then I met someone who bakes sugar free rusks, without artificial sweetener: with dates! Duh!? Dates are like the sweetest and tastiest thing on earth, after rusks.

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So I put a few recipes together and came up with this one. I use stone ground rye flour because I believe it’s healthier. It’s obviously not gluten free. But I feel good eating, and therefore using, rye. I’m sure you could substitute it with gluten free flour.

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Here is the recipe:

Continue reading

Zero Waste Baby Shower

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So I was asked to help organise a baby shower for a really good friend. The problem was, that I had just gone Zero Waste. Which isn’t a problem, at all, but it does leave one with a few logistical considerations when organising a party.

I would like to mention that I was not solely responsible for the organisation, therefore complete Zero Waste was not possible. But I think we did quite  well…

We decided on a picnic in the Pretoria Botanical Gardens. The gardens are beautiful, with lovely big trees. It is so green at the moment after all the rain we’ve been having!

BUT when organising a picnic for so many people, it usually goes with a lot of waste… We decided to do it in the following way. Continue reading

Zero Waste Shopping Success

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I have had the best Zero Waste Shopping day ever.  Okay. It’s like my third Zero Shopping day. But this has been a really successful shopping day in terms of packaging.

My husband is busy working on a friends album in Pretoria, so my daughter and I went to Pretoria, and stayed over at the studio. On our way back home I bought the most beautiful second hand glass jars from Bellbottoms, an awesome antique store in Pierneef Street. I then passed by Carl’s Coffee, in 18th street, to fill up on some coffee beans. They were willing to put the beans directly into my glass jars. Continue reading

Danél – 1. Waste – 0. Frustration – 10.

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It was all going really well.  In fact I was on top of the world.  No waste for one day. Oh yes. Golden star. 100%. Noddy badge. Difference maker etc etc. I had bought two take away cappuccino in my own EcoSoulife Cafe Traveler, refused my cash slips and placed my take away in my own cotton serviette. Day 1 was a breeze. What could possibly go wrong. Continue reading

Zero Waste: ready, steady, throw

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The less you have, the less you have to worry about ||Gautama Buddha||

So it has now been about 10 days since starting this new Zero Waste Home lifestyle.

Step 1: Decluttering our home.

We live in a  very small house on a beautiful farm near Walkerville, Gauteng. Our house does not have any built in closets. Actually, it doesn’t really have any cupboards. So when  we moved there from a rather large home (5 bedrooms) in Pretoria, in June 2016,  all our ‘stuff’ had to fit into our new home. Needless to stay, it didn’t. Not even half. So we went European and made everything we thought we needed (thought) fit. We put things under, on top, behind, and everywhere we could find an open space.  My clothes couldn’t fit in my loose standing closet, so there were things stacked on top.  The closet didn’t really fit into the room either.  We placed the rest in storage.

Now, the problem with this clever Europeanization of our home is that it became extremely cluttered. Constantly having to bend down and reach under the bed for something became really frustating. The house became untidy because it was too much trouble to place things back where they belonged.  A little cockroach family moved in, along with a lot of dust. We found a Rinkhals (very poisonous snake) right outside our house. A rat in our daughter’s room. A blind snake under my sink (not dangerous, but hey) and many frogs. Clutter + animals = Great hiding and breeding spots.

WE HAD TO DECLUTTER. Continue reading

Zero Waste. Zero Waste. Zero Waste.

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A few months ago, as I was throwing another non-recyclable object into our small general waste bin I suddenly became very frustrated and discouraged.

At that point I was recycling and using cloth diapers (mostly), but it all suddenly felt like I was not really making such a big difference after all.  I always felt so good about myself when dropping my recyling off at Pikitup, or when paying Open Sky Recyling to pick my recycling up from our curb when we were still living in Rietondale, Pretoria. But I was still sending bin after bin to the landfill, week after week, in a plastic bag, filled with plastic bags.

“I guess you can’t win” I said to my husband.

Then about a month later I was discussing my interest in having a capsule closet with my sister in law, she shared a Tedtalk by Bea Johnson about her Zero Waste Home with me. In the video Bea mentions her capsule closet of 15 items, BUT, she mainly discusses ZERO WASTE. Here I would like to shout and if I could add a sound clip I would.

ZERO WASTE. ZERO WASTE. ZERO WASTE. Continue reading